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AudioBase inks music deals with Sony, others

The streaming audio provider will announce deals with at least a half-dozen companies to offer Web surfers access to online music previews without a third-party media player.

Streaming audio provider AudioBase.com on Monday plans to announce deals with at least a half-dozen companies, including Sony, Levi-Strauss and K-Tel, to offer Web surfers access to online music previews without a third-party media player, according to a source familiar with the deals.

The series of deals--to be announced in conjunction with industry conference Webnoize--signals a growing acceptance of AudioBase's streaming audio services, which the fledgling company had previously marketed primarily as an online banner advertising tool.

Featured on the company's Web site today were music and entertainment promotions for some of its new customers, including Levi's Music, Sony Music, eDedication, K-Tel, AmuZnet and Spun.com.

An AudioBase representative refused to comment on the deals.

But newly formed Spun said it plans to unveil a new feature on its Web site on Monday that will allow users to sample the company's song library using AudioBase's streaming service.

"The easier you can make it for consumers to hear the music, the more likely you'll close a transaction," explained Spun co-founder and Chief Executive Andy Grundy, who noted that Web users can be frustrated when their players don't always work with the music they find online.

Unlike streaming media leader RealNetworks, AudioBase's Java-based audio player does not require downloads. Rather, the company hosts the music on its own servers, allowing customers to trigger the sound with simple HTML code built into a Web page.

It's not clear how much of a threat AudioBase might pose to RealNetworks and other companies that have developed media players that sit on a user's PC. According to Spun, Monday's deal marks the first time AudioBase's technology has been used by an e-commerce site to enable music previews.

Founded last month, Spun provides information and search features for locating and sampling music in 30-second snippets. The company also offers an online music exchange, giving customers credit for trade-ins that can be saved for later use or applied toward the purchase of CDs in its library.

AudioBase was founded by former Volpe Brown Whelan employee David Haynes in May 1998. The company owes at least some of its technical know-how to Liquid Audio alum Rhys Ryan, who headed the team that built its audio streaming player.

The privately held company's backers include Bay Partners, which took a $2.5 million stake earlier this year.